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On San Francisco’s policy menu: making Happy Meals healthy, too

A SpongeBob figurine may soon lead to the disappearance of trinkets from fast food meals. 

San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar recently recounted a story about finding a drawerful of happy meal toys like Sponge Bob in his daughter’s toy drawer. He was horrified to discover how many toys she had collected — and the corresponding number of Happy Meals she would have eaten to get those toys. 

So earlier this week Mar introduced legislation at a supervisors’ board meeting to ban toys from kids’ meals unless the meal is healthy.

“The legislation will set nutritional standards for restaurant food accompanied by toys or other youth incentives,” Mar said. The “Healthy Meal Incentive” legislation aims to create better eating habits to fight childhood obesity.

The law will require all meals with toys to include fruits and vegetables. Also, the entire meal must be less than 600 calories, or 200 calories for a single item. Beverages that come with meals must not contain an excessive amount of fat or sugar.

Mar said that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity in children ages 6 to 11 has quadrupled since the Happy Meal was created in 1979.

“This modest ordinance provides healthier food choices for children and families, addresses the childhood obesity epidemic, reduces costs to our health care system and protects the public’s health,” Mar said.

Similar legislation in Santa Clara County went into effect on Monday and dictates that meals with toys may not exceed 485 calories.

Before the board discusses the bill, the supervisors will be in recess until Sept. 11.